Parallax Revisited 1 Year of Constraints

Arjen Vrielink and I write a monthly series titled: Parallax. We both agree on a title for the post and on some other arbitrary restrictions to induce our creative process. July marks the first year of the parallax series. To celebrate we look back on the past year and review our: favourite topic, favourite personal post, favourite post of the other and a review of the formats. You can read Arjen’s post with the same title here.

When I started blogging in the summer of 2008 I decided I would stay away from writing “meta posts”. I never like it when people write about their own blog (how many posts they have made, comments received, visitors had, etc.). If you don’t like that either, then I suggest you skip this post as I am going to break my own rules.

This animation is an example of parallax. As the viewpoint moves side to side, the objects in the distance appear to move more slowly than the objects close to the camera. CC-licensed by Natejunk2004

When Arjen Vrielink and I realised that we would no longer work together at Stoas Learning, we decided that it would be nice to stay in touch and find a way to continue the conversations we had. Arjen thought it would be a good idea to write a monthly blog post. We would share a title and we would publish at the exact same time linking to each others posts. Neither of us would read what the other had written before the posts were published. I thought “parallax” would be a good name for the series as it is the name for the fact that two viewers looking at the same thing from a different location see something different. We did as we agreed and have now written twelve parallax posts. This is number thirteen.

Each parallax post comes with restrictions. The idea being that constraints actually induce creativity. We have used different types of constraints. The most simple limitation was on the number of words. We used this a couple of times and each time it forced me to rewrite a lot. This probably created better English (which isn’t my mother tongue as you might have noticed) and more readable posts, but also forced me to leave out arguments and points that I thought were important. Other times we forced each other to use a particular medium (e.g. a video or a type of picture) , we stole a format of a magazine (e.g. the “What on earth is” series by Linux Format) or we used Tweets about an event to tell a story (e.g. Drupaljam). I have come to realise that these constraints can really be helpful in the writing process and I would like to continue to explore new formats.

My favourite post
One of the nicest things that can happen when writing a blog  post is receiving comments. It is therefore that my post titled A Design Concept For a Mobile Moodle Application is one of my favourites. Writing the post allowed me to think quite deeply about what a Mobile application for Moodle should look like and it integrated some of the ideas that I had had for a long time. It triggered a lot of discussion with a fast reply from the lead developer from Moodle and it made connections to other people who are making these ideas a reality.

My favourite post written by Arjen
It has been interesting to see how often Arjen and I take a very similar approach to a topic. One example being the similar kind of caveats we have written in reaction to the title of the post. Arjen’s posts are often more blunt than mine and slightly more provocative. Many of his posts have made me laugh out loud.
My favourite post of his is the one titled What on earth is Remote Sensing?. It starts with the classic question: “I’m not interested in another Swami theory, so please …” and then goes on explaining a relatively complex topic, “remote sensing”, in an extremely clear and humorous way. I like it when writers manage to open up a new world for me and that is what Arjen did with this post.

My favourite topic
Parallax has also created the time and space to write about the things that I always meant to write about, but could never get to. The Influence of a Workspace On Performance is probably my favourite topics where this was the case. This post brought together my thoughts on how the environment affects behaviour allowing me to use great examples from people like Corbusier, Hans Monderman, Jane Jacobs and David Leon (and from products like IE6). These topic continues to fascinate me and I would gladly write another post exploring some of these ideas further.

The future of parallax
Looking back I can now clearly see the way forward for Parallax. I think it has more than delivered on what it set out to do:

  • It made me stay in touch with Arjen: at least every month we have some email back and forth on the topic and the constraints and sometimes we do things together so that we can write about it.
  • It helps me accomplish one of the main goals of my blog: reflection. I am not naturally a very reflective person and don’t take the time to think (every second of open time is spent reading or listening to informative podcasts, I never stare in the distance and ponder, sadly making my morning shower the most reflective part of the day). Writing is reflecting and thinking and would be worth it even if nobody would ever read this.
  • It allows me to react on my very “corporate” job. I can, covertly, challenge some of the ways of working in my company and think about doing things differently.
  • It opens up conversations with people from all over the world.

The one thing that I would like to do in the future is to get more guest writers to participate. I think it would be great to have a constantly changing third voice to our posts. I hope Arjen agrees!

2 thoughts on “Parallax Revisited 1 Year of Constraints

  1. “(…) and sometimes we do things together so that we can write about it.”

    haha, pick me up from the floor.

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